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Catherine Roerva Pelzer, Dave’s mom, is portrayed as Mom, Mother, and the Bitch. Dave tells us about Mom right after his account of “The Rescue.” He tells us of “The Good Times” when Mom and Father were happy, when they were all a normal family. Mom was a devoted nurturer, housewife and teacher. She wore dresses, her face was always made up, and she was always cooking scrumptious meals for the family. Mom would take outings with her sons whenever father wasn’t around, and vacations with the whole family, the most memorable being their trips to the Russian River. Mom was sweet and loving; she acknowledged achievements, showed pride and physical as well as emotional affection around her son.
Mother is introduced to us from “The Rescue” and we continue to learn of her tortures throughout the book. Mother is a woman who is angry, specially towards Dave, specially when he is in need of punishment. Mother does not take care of her appearance anymore, she walks around in robes all day, watches tv, never bothers to put on make up, and often smells of alcohol. She is vindictive, cruel and abusive, always barking orders, assigning impossible chores and coming up with more sickening ways to break Dave. Mother attacks Dave’s self esteem by making him repeat and believe that he is a bad boy. Dave’s self esteem deteriorates even more as she treats him worse than one would a dog, yet acts towards his brothers with care and affection and even goes on to teach them to look down on Dave.
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Through Dave’s narrative we see Roerva’s metamorphosis through her actions and the effects they have on him, however, we are not given enough background information to do more than speculate on why this change happened. This is my personal analysis of the situation...
I spent a lot of time going over the second chapter, “The Good Times,” looking for clues. One of the things that stood out the most in my mind was her eagerness to please, specially her husband. Stress is a big factor that can sometimes make parents lose it, and maybe she had a great amount of pressure (whether placed there by herself or by others I do not know) to be the perfect mother, housewife, etc. Her husband is a firefighter and due to his job he is forced to stay away for long periods of time. This steers me to add to this eagerness to please and maybe not get much in return in form of recognition for said efforts?? This theory is also supported by her attitude towards her husband later in the narrative. It has already been established that she is controlling with Dave, but she also has tight control over her husband. Towards the end of the tale there is not even a trace to be found of any love between Roerva and Stephen.
Part of me believes that Roerva’s anger stems from a wish and effort to have and be the perfect family and not be able to keep living this illusion. There is a quote that also makes me wonder about her own past and childhood. In Chapter 2 (page 23) Dave mentions something his mom said: “Mom told me she was crying because she was happy to have a real family.” This makes me want to know more about her, did she not have a “real” family before? Another thing that makes me want to know more about her is her addiction to alcohol. Even early in the narrative, throughout the good times, Roerva and her husband are found drinking and toasting each other, but how and why exactly did this get out of hand? Substance abuse, in this case alcohol, plays a big part in child abuse, but once again no background information is found to speculate on.
Overall, I learned a lot from the book, and I am glad to see that Dave was able to survive and leave that situation. I also wonder what other struggles Dave faced once he left his “home” and was out of his mother’s reach. I am full of questions that have been unanswered, but at the end of the book Dave states that a lot of our questions will be answered in the next books, The Lost Boy and A Man Named Dave. I look forward to finding out.